Parties Swap Roles on Fiscal Policy

Republicans are the big spenders in today's world.


Remember when Republicans reliably cut taxes and spending and Democrats were the party of "tax and spend"? OK, maybe there never really was such a time.

But Republican President Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut was the largest in U.S. history. And he successfully painted Democrats as "tax-and-spend liberals" with a coating that stuck so well, no amount of turpentine could remove it for decades.

Fast-forward a quarter century, and we have a Republican president who converted the huge surplus left for him by the Democratic president he succeeded and has managed to amass an off-budget debt that will plague generations after his term ends.

Guess what? Could it be that Republicans now deserve the "tax and spend" label and Democrats now stand for fiscal responsibility and lower taxes for many Americans? The Democratic-led House last week passed a bill to protect 23 million middle- and upper-class taxpayers from being hit by the alternative minimum tax. Who would have thought it? Can it be that tax-cutters are moving left?

Democrats also have discovered a new political demography: More and more of their voters reside in the upper reaches of the middle class, concentrated along the coasts and in cities, while many Republican voters fall into the lower-middle class in the small cities and rural areas of the country's interior.

Tax-cutting, fiscally responsible Democrats and overspending Republicans. Of course, President Bush did cut taxes during his first term. But only for a small percentage of Americans: the super-rich. And he ignored the tax burden that plagues many, many millions: the alternative minimum tax.